2012 12 Hours of SebringPosted: March 13, 2012
This weekend marks the 60th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. Not only will it kick off the 14th season of the American Le Mans Series, it will also be the inaugural race of the new World Endurance Championship.
Built around Hendricks Field, a World War II B-17 bomber training facility, the airfield was converted into a race track after the war. In 1950 it hosted its first race – a six-hour event. Today we know it as the 12 Hours of Sebring.
The 3.7 mile track is notoriously hard on both the cars and the drivers. Hard and bumpy corners as well as blistering fast straights, competitors survive the race more than they win it. After an already long lap, the drivers face Turn 17: Sunset Bend. In the waning hours of the race, they must stare directly into the sun in the late afternoon into dusk. Vision – or lack thereof – isn’t the only issue with T17. The corner is a long right-hander with vicious bumps. More than once has a driver been caught out of place as the ripples of the concrete throw the car out of shape.
Here’s an on-board lap with Gunnar Jeannette in his LMP Challenge car from last year:
Notice how bumpy the track is – especially around Turn 17 – Sunset Bend. 2 hours behind the wheel in these tightly sprung race cars cannot feel good.
The field is made up of both ALMS and WEC entries. 64 entries ranging from the blistering fast Audi R18 in the now called P1 division down to the slowest GT Cup Porsche 997’s. The fastest cars lap Sebring in 1:47 and the slowest in 2:13 – a difference of 23 seconds a lap. And lap times aren’t the only issue. Down the Ullman Straight, the Audi’s will reach 180MPH and the GTC cars may only top out around 150 MPH.
Andy Blackmore just released his Sebring Spotter Guide. The biggest guide he’s ever done, Andy again provides us with his excellent work.
In addition to the start of the sportscar racing season, Formula 1 kicks off on Melbourne, Australia. While Daytona was a few weeks ago, I think of these two events as the true beginning of the racing season.